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The development of modern social security systems from the 1880s reflects not only a gradual but fundamental change in the aims and scope of social policy but also a dramatic shift in expert and popular opinion with regard to the relative significance of the social and personal causes of need.
In Victorian times a more stringent legal view of poverty as a moral failing was met with the rise of humanitarianism and a proliferation of social reformers.
The voluntary charitable agencies of the time differed on the relative merits of deterrent poor-law services on the one hand, implying resistance to the growth of statutory welfare, and on the provision of alternative assistance to the needy, coupled with the extension of statutory services, on the other hand.
From the 1870s the Charity Organization Society and similar bodies in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere held strongly to the former option, and their influence was widespread until the outbreak of World War II.
The social charities and philanthropic societies founded by these pioneers formed the basis for many of today’s welfare services.
Because perceived needs and the ability to address them determine each society’s range of welfare services, there exists no universal vocabulary of social welfare.